Born with a condition called bilateral amelia, Kevin Michael Connolly had to learn how to live without legs. Heeding the doctor’s advice to “treat him like a normal guy” so he would have a “normal life”, Kevin’s parents raised him in the same manner as they did their other children. As a small child, Kevin was less aware of other people’s reactions to his lack of limbs. But as he grew older and entered middle school, the differences between himself and his peers became more distinct. During recesses the other boys would participate in sports while Kevin could only sit by and watch.
To his parents’ dismay, Kevin decided when only in 3rd grade that using prosthetic limbs (which were paid for by Shriners Hospital in Spokane, Washington) were not a practical way for him to get around. Though they gave him the illusion of looking like a normal child, the artificial limbs weighed more than he did and required that he use crutches to move himself around.
Inspired by the hit TV show MacGyver, Kevin’s father invented homemade contraptions and safety devices that allowed Kevin to have more comfort in his limbless state. One of these many creations was called a “leather” (a body sack made from deerskin held up by durable suspenders). Later in his life, Kevin used his creativity to turn a longboard into a body vehicle. When in situations where using his longboard was not practical, Kevin became adept at using his arms to propel him forward.
One of Kevin’s strongest desires was to excel in the world of sports. Though he had the upper body strength needed to succeed in wrestling, his lack of legs held him back. Eventually Kevin found his calling with skiing. Through his father’s ingenuity and ability to network, Kevin met people who were willing to donate time and finances to help him thrive in his new hobby. After winning a monetary award in the X games, Kevin decides to travel the world again with a new purpose. With a $3000 camera in tow and his longboard guiding his path, he set out photograph peoples’ first reactions to his appearance.
In Double Take, 23-year-old Kevin Michael Connolly gives a matter-of-fact account of growing up and living without legs. Taking us on a detailed journey through his childhood and college years traveling abroad, Kevin speaks candidly of his feelings regarding other people’s reactions to his physique. Using those photographs, he has created an art project like none other. Seeing himself through others’ eyes allowed Kevin to redefine how he perceived himself.
At the beginning of each new chapter, there is a haunting photograph of a person’s reaction to seeing Kevin. The emotions on their faces range from pity to shock to disgust. Instead of trying to consider all the different layers that make up a whole person, the people whom he photographed were only able to see what was on the outside. Kevin’s personality really shines through in Double Take; what he lacks in body he more than makes up for in creativity, ability to inspire, and his confidence in himself.
For more information and a pretty amusing video by Kevin Michael Connolly, please check out his website.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.